Toronto FC ends a stretch of five games in 15 days Saturday when it faces Real Salt Lake City at Rio Tinto Stadium with a question-mark over key forward Jozy Altidore.
The U.S. international’s finishing touch was sorely missed Wednesday when Toronto launched a club-record 35 shots (13 of which were on target) but had to settle for a 0-0 tie with D.C. United, who had three shots (two on target).
After scoring 18 goals in its first six games (4-1-1), Toronto has scored just four in the last five (1-3-1) and been shut out twice. Altidore has played just 18 minutes in those five games, due to hamstring and heel problems.
Altidore, who has been dynamite when healthy this season with five goals in six games, travelled with the team to Utah but is listed as questionable.
“I’m not sure if we know exactly how quickly we can get the inflammation or the soreness out of (the heel),” coach Greg Vanney said after the D.C. United game.
The questions will continue to mount about the Toronto attack past Altidore. Ayo Akinola has left to join the U.S. team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, leaving Jordan Hamilton and Terrence Boyd as the other attacking options.
Vanney pulled no punches when asked after the midweek game if the team was lacking in firepower without Altidore.
“I think we need more,” said Vanney. “I think that’s been evident for a while. That’s something we definitely have to consider and have talked about. We’ve got to work on that.”
Toronto GM Ali Curtis put in a lot of miles on the road prior to the transfer window closing May 7. He says the team identified two players it wanted but could not swing the deals.
Without the reinforcements, Curtis essentially has to wait until the secondary transfer window opens July 7 and sound positive.
“When I look at the strength of our roster, our starting 11, our top 14-15 players, when I look at those players versus the rest of our conference and the rest of our league, I feel good,” he said in an interview the day before the D.C. United match.
“I think we’re in a position of strength.”
Curtis noted how quickly Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo — who has five goals and six assists in nine games — had bedded in with the team, suggesting that a refined search produces dividends.
“What we’re looking for in terms of adding to the roster is very specific … It’s not necessarily coming in with a hammer, it’s coming in with a scalpel.”
Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg and wingback Richie Laryea have proved useful additions to the squad. Toronto is also looking to promote players from within its system.
But expect additions come June, which will be timely given Altidore is expected to leave for the Gold Cup which starts June 15.
“We had conversations with agents, clubs and players that we identified as potentially signing for this window,” Curtis said. “And also we have a lot of conversations with a lot of players that are not available until the summer … We’ll look to add players in the summer, for sure.”
Given the investment in the possible targets, “we just need to be careful and patient and disciplined about what individual we’re actually going to bring in.”
“Yes, we did identify a few players that we thought would fit the profile, for sure. But their clubs weren’t willing to let them go. Unfortunately. It wasn’t a matter of cost or for lack of effort or skill. I think at the end of the day the teams just didn’t want to let them go.”
In the meantime, TFC may want to invest in some cotton wool for Altidore.
TORONTO FC (5-4-2) at REAL SALT LAKE (4-6-1)
SATURDAY, Rio Tinto Stadium
ON THE MOVE: Reports suggest Salt Lake’s Ecuador forward Joao Plata, who spent two seasons with Toronto, may be on the move to a club in Mexico.
RSL FORM: Salt Lake is coming off a win over lowly Colorado, snapping a two-game losing streak.
HISTORY SAYS: Tough day for Toronto, which is 1-7-1 in Salt Lake.
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